Prevent: Independent Review

– in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 8 February 2023.

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Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:00, 8 February 2023

Before I start, I put on record my thanks to Mr Speaker for hosting President Zelensky just now in Parliament; I am sure we all agree that his address was both moving and powerful. Having visited Ukraine last year as Attorney General, I know that this Government are as committed as ever to fighting with our friends in Ukraine.

With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the independent review of Prevent. The United Kingdom is an extraordinary place to live. Our history, our culture, our institutions, our liberties and, crucially, our values make it so: democracy, the rule of law, sexual equality, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of inquiry.

Those freedoms are not enjoyed universally. We are reminded of that every day in Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, in Iran’s brutal repression of protest, and in China’s horrific treatment of the Uyghur people and its draconian laws limiting free expression in Hong Kong. The United Kingdom is extraordinary because of the rights and freedoms our citizens enjoy. That is why so many people want to follow in my parents’ footsteps and leave their home to make a new life here.

Those rights and freedoms are underpinned by our shared values. We cannot be timid when it comes to those values. If we do not argue for them, if we do not defend them, there is no guarantee that they will endure, because there are those who seek to undermine them through extremist and even terrorist activity.

Recent attacks provide a tragic and sobering reminder of that threat. The 2017 Westminster attack, the Manchester Arena bombing, London Bridge, Finsbury Park, Fishmongers’ Hall, Forbury Gardens and the murders of Jo Cox MP and Sir David Amess MP have all taken lives from us in the name of extremist ideology.

Terrorist attacks are not random acts of violence. They are inherently and necessarily ideological. The very freedoms and values we cherish are the things terrorists want to destroy. Terrorists come from a much wider pool of extremists. That is why we must ensure we address the whole problem, not just the sharpest, most violent end of the extremist-terrorist spectrum.

My first duty as Home Secretary is to keep the British public safe. The UK’s counter-terrorism strategy, Contest, is centred around four Ps: prevent, pursue, protect and prepare. Each of those four pillars is vital, but I am here to talk about how we can better prevent people from becoming radicalised into ideologies that inspire terrorism. I am here to talk about Prevent.

Prevent is an early intervention programme. Its mission is to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. It relies on frontline sectors across society, including healthcare, education, local authorities and the police. William Shawcross has led a superb independent review of Prevent, for which I am very grateful. The review is unflinching: Prevent needs major reform. It needs to better understand the threats that we face and the ideology underpinning them.

Eighty per cent. of the counter-terrorism police network’s live investigations are on Islamist terrorism. MI5 is clear that that remains our predominant threat, accounting for 75% of its caseload. Yet only 16% of Prevent referrals in 2021-22 were Islamist. Prevent has shown cultural timidity and an institutional hesitancy to tackle Islamism for fear of charges of Islamophobia. Those are false charges that spread fear and misinformation in communities.

As the former Prime Minister David Cameron said in 2015:

“Islam is a religion observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology supported by a minority. At the furthest end are those who back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of Sharia. Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but who accept various parts of the extremist worldview, including real hostility towards Western democracy and liberal values.”

I thank Mr Cameron for his leadership on this issue, and I stand by his words.

The truth is that there is nothing anti-Muslim about tackling Islamism, and we must continue to work closely with Muslim communities if we are to do so effectively. In fact, William Shawcross rightly commended the excellent, brave work to challenge Islamism in local communities. I share his outrage that those working to do so—many of whom are Muslim—often face intimidation, including death threats, from extremists. Prevent must do more to support them.

While obscuring the Islamist threat, Prevent has defined the extreme right wing too broadly, encompassing the respectable right and centre-right. The threat from the extreme right wing must not be minimised. It is serious and it is growing; it must be robustly addressed. But it is not the same, either in nature or in scale, as the threat from Islamism.

Prevent is a security service, not a social service. Too often, the role of ideology in terrorism is minimised, with violence attributed instead to vulnerabilities such as mental health or poverty. “Protective factors” do not absolve ideological fervour or individual responsibility. We must be more nuanced in our approach.

I will swiftly implement all the review’s recommendations, and will report on my progress a year from now. Prevent’s focus must be solely on security, not on political correctness. Prevent’s first objective will be to tackle the ideological causes of terrorism. It must counteract the narratives of extremists, undermine their propaganda, and take on their warped ideologies. Prevent staff, and others under the Prevent duty, will have better training and guidance, improving their understanding of the ideological nature of terrorism. There will be a proportionate and consistent threshold for defining all ideological threats. A new security threat check process will ensure that Prevent decision making always considers the present terrorist threat.

The review establishes that Prevent has funded—using taxpayer money in the name of counter-extremism—those legitimising extremism. That ends on my watch. I will strengthen the oversight of our work with civil society organisations, and ensure that Prevent funding goes only towards Prevent’s objectives.

In too many aspects of British life, hatred directed at Jewish people has been tolerated, normalised, and accepted. Racism that would rightly be called out and enforced against were it directed at another minority group is too often ignored when directed at Jews. The review makes clear that that double standard must change, so Prevent will do more to recognise and combat the prevalence of antisemitism in extremist ideology and narratives.

Finally, I will look to the Commission for Countering Extremism, led by Robin Simcox, for independent scrutiny and expertise as we deliver on the review’s recommendations.

Britain has succeeded because we are a pluralist, open society, enhanced by our differences and bound together by our values. This country can be proud of who we are—proud of our freedoms and proud of our values. We should say so, loudly and often. I am deeply grateful to all those who work hard to counter extremism and keep us safe. A reformed Prevent is critical to that goal. That is why I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:10, 8 February 2023

I thank the Home Secretary for advance sight of her statement. May I also say how much all of us welcome and pay tribute to the words of President Zelensky, who spoke in Westminster Hall earlier?

This is a moment to pay tribute to the work of the security and intelligence services, the counter-terror police and all those who work on preventing and countering extremism and terror threats. The work that they do is difficult, but it saves lives and we owe them thanks. Extremism is a stain on our society. Perpetrated in the name of one ideology or another, it feeds on fear. Its purpose is to tap into vulnerabilities, exploit people and drive us apart; to force us to hate rather than love; and to divide us rather than recognise what we share in common—from the appalling Manchester attack on children at a concert, to the attack on Fishmongers’ Hall on London Bridge, to the murder of some of our own colleagues: David Amess by an Islamist extremist, and Jo Cox by a far right extremist. Most recently, there was also the bomb attempt against the Dover border centre.

We should condemn terrorist and extremist activity wherever it comes from. Fighting against it is a core part of our national security and of defending our democracy. The resilience that we build against extremists is about standing up for what we have in common and always challenging hatred and extremism wherever we might find it.

The Prevent programme, which we are discussing today, is extremely important. Its purpose is early intervention to prevent radicalisation and extremism, and ultimately to prevent terror threats to all of us. That is why we support it and want always to see the work on the prevention of terrorism and extremism improved, updated and scrutinised. But the review should have been a great opportunity, and that opportunity has been missed. Instead of being a way to build consensus, it has been mishandled.

Prevent is—or should be—just one aspect of a wider counter-extremism and counter-terrorism strategy; it works only if it is located within those. The focus on it today, as if there were only the one aspect, is too narrow and means that it fails to tackle the pressures that we face. Prevent is about voluntary engagement to tackle radicalisation, but it needs to be part of the wider counter-extremism strategy. However, the Home Secretary and the Government have not updated their counter-extremism strategy since 2015.

The situation is likewise on the elements of the Contest strategy—the wider counter-terror strategy, of which Prevent is a part. On the “pursue” element, we know that since control orders were abolished there has been very little use of terrorism prevention and investigation measures; only two are in force today. On “prepare”, the Manchester bombing inquiry found serious weaknesses, and on “protect” there has been very limited progress on Martyn’s law, which is so important. The Prevent strategy should be part of that wider updated counter-terror strategy and also of an updated counter-extremism strategy that we do not have today.

The review and its conclusions, and the Home Secretary’s response to them, feel confused. At one point she said that the focus should be narrower and on those most likely to pose a terrorist threat, but at the same time, that the focus needs to be more on wider non-violent extremism. It will be unclear to practitioners what it is that they are expected to do. She says that there has been a problem—that Prevent has supported extremist groups in the past and that she will end that—but I say to her that when her predecessor, Mrs May, did her own Prevent review, she said exactly the same thing and said, “We will not make these mistakes again. This will not happen.” After 13 years in government, it is unclear what they have been doing.

The Home Secretary has said there needs to be proper scrutiny and oversight, but the Prevent oversight board has not met since 2018. The review says that mental health services have huge gaps and Prevent is picking up the strain. We agree there is a serious problem with mental health services having huge gaps and not being able to address early intervention, but where is the response to that? Labour has called for mental health practitioners in all secondary schools to provide support, but again that is missing.

The review does not seem to address the big increase and the record numbers of teenagers who have been arrested for terrorist offences. The Home Secretary talks about Islamist and far-right extremism, and it is clear that Prevent and the wider counter-extremism strategy need to tackle both, and both are changing fast. Islamist extremism often now is about single actors and lone actors, not just the organised groups that we saw some years ago. With far-right extremism, likewise we have seen many changes in how those threats take place, and we have seen the rise of new kinds of ideologies and extremist threats, including incels. There should be no hierarchy of extremism. The counter-terror police and the experts need to go wherever the evidence takes them. There should be no political sensitivities and no cultural sensitivities at all in any of their work, and we should back them in the work they do and not try to set in this House what those priorities should be. They need to focus on the evidence.

This is an immensely important area, but will the Home Secretary now agree to a much wider review of the counter-extremism strategy and come forward with a proper counter-extremism strategy that can tackle hateful extremism much more widely? Will she recognise that the Government have failed by not updating the strategy? Will she also tell us whether she really thinks that her approach will build consensus, because consensus around a voluntary engagement programme is crucial? That is where it feels that the Home Secretary and this review have badly let the country down.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I welcome the challenge and the response from the shadow Home Secretary on the Labour Front Bench. It is obviously the responsibility of the Government and everyone in this House to choose their words carefully, recognising the sensitivity of this subject, but ultimately to uphold the aim of Prevent, which is to prevent people from becoming radicalised and engaging in terrorism. We cannot do that alone. The communities of individuals who are of interest to Prevent are an essential part of helping us to identify radicalism and to deal with it effectively, and we must work together, collectively, for that common goal.

The shadow Home Secretary does not seem to understand the main point, or one of the main points, made by William Shawcross, which is that we cannot ignore the seriousness of non-violent extremism and groups that purport to be operating in the name of community cohesion and in the name of Islam, but are actually propagating mendacious and malicious campaigns to discredit Prevent as anti-Muslim and to undermine community cohesion. Let us be clear, just as the independent review is. CAGE, for example, is an Islamist group. It has excused and legitimised violence by Islamist terrorists. Muslim Engagement and Development is an anti-Prevent group, with a history of partnering with actors of extremist concern. Prevent has been routinely smeared by such groups as a vehicle for spying on Muslims. They have slandered those who work with Prevent to combat Islamist extremism as disloyal, sinful or “native” informants—derogatory terms that are entirely unacceptable in our free and liberal society. We must combat those pernicious fallacies and be courageous and muscular in combating that misinformation.

I will just say that I find the lecture from the Labour party on how to prevent extremism rather rich. That is a Labour party that, sadly, was investigated by the Metropolitan police for antisemitic hate crimes. That is a Labour party that was found by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to have serious failings in addressing antisemitism. That is a Labour party that campaigned to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The Home Secretary knows that she should not refer to hon. Members by name directly.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

That is a Labour party that campaigned to make the right hon. Member for Islington North Prime Minister.

In this field, I prefer to take my advice and cues from the great British public. They did the cause of fighting extremism an immense service when they voted overwhelmingly to ensure that the Labour party, under the leadership of the right hon. Member for Islington North, would have nothing to do with leading this country.

William Shawcross has exposed a real problem: a cultural timidity, a blind eye being turned to extremism, a fraternisation with those who would do us harm, and a hesitancy to confront head on and bravely the threat of Islamist extremist ideology. That problem, it seems, runs deep in the Labour party, too. I commend the statement and encourage all colleagues to work with the Home Office to make this work.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

I am slightly sorry about the lack of consensus in the Chamber, although that illustrates the point that when views are strongly held, reaching consensus may be an ideal goal that is not always realisable. However, drawing on the shadow Home Secretary’s comments, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to focus on the voluntary aspect of the Prevent programme? Although one can understand that it will always have to operate in a fairly gentle and very carefully worded way to encourage people voluntarily to engage with it, does that mean that there is a gap in the system whereby people espousing extreme views who would benefit from a course on the Prevent programme are, by simply refusing it, allowed to proceed without any attempt at all to encourage them or deter them from an extreme position in the future?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. Although Prevent is predominantly about security and safety and must be heavily informed by the security assessments, there is a very strong community element. That is why work with local authorities and agencies in healthcare and education is vital. That is one element of the Channel programme, which is covered extensively in William Shawcross’s report. There is moving evidence of how that multi-agency intervention has saved lives. Let me be clear that, for every Prevent failure that is exposed in the media or otherwise publicly, there are many stories—which the public will never read about—of lives turned around and harm averted, thanks to the great work done by multi-agency partners in the way to which my right hon. Friend refers.

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities)

After months of delay, some caused by repeated changes of Prime Minister, as well as reported concerns among Ministers that some organisations named in the report could sue for libel, it is welcome that the report has now been published. This area is critically important, and I think we would all agree on the value that we place on those who work so hard to keep us all safe, but questions remain about the focus. For instance, we need to see this report in the context of the Met’s head of counter-terrorism pointing out that three in four advanced terror plots disrupted in 2021 actually involved right-wing extremists, and 41% of counter-terrorism arrests in 2021 were of extreme right-wing suspects. Does the Home Secretary agree that whatever steps are taken in response to the report, it would be wrong and indeed damaging to stigmatise or marginalise Muslim communities, and that the risks posed by ideologies such as right-wing extremism and antisemitism, as well as Islamic extremism, must all remain central to any UK counter-terror strategy?

Does the Home Secretary feel that any shift in focus is needed to take into account more recent forms of extremism that have emerged since the report was commissioned, such as the QAnon ideology imported from the United States, incels or the anti-vax movement that sprung up during the pandemic? I note that, in the draft review, Mr Shawcross indicated that money from the Prevent budget in some cases went to organisations promoting extremist narratives. What changes does she intend to make to ensure that that comes to an end, and can she tell us how much money she thinks has been sent to such organisations? Can she also tell us if the refreshed strategy will be accompanied by any increase in Prevent’s budget?

Finally, the Home Secretary will know that Scotland takes its own approach to Prevent, with our focus on strong links between the community and the police, leading to positive relationships and grassroots-based initiatives aimed at countering extremism. Can she tell us how she will protect that specific approach in relation to recommendation 14, and whether she will she be guided by Scotland’s experience in her own application of the Prevent strategy?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I do not agree with the hon. Lady’s characterisation that this is unfairly stigmatising Muslims. I have been clear that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding. What we are talking about here is a minority of Islamist extremists, and we must not shy away from calling out their unacceptable behaviour. William Shawcross goes into a lot of detail, building on accounts by many other experts, notably Mr Justice Haddon-Cave in the case of Shakeel Begg, in which he talks authoritatively and exhaustively about the narratives that are characteristic of kinds of non-violent extremist practices—preaching jihad, encouraging religious violence, a world view of us versus them and urging destruction of disbelievers in the name of Islam. Activity such as that is what constitutes extremist ideology, and ideology is at the root of the behaviour that can lead to terror and destruction.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

Will the Home Secretary, whom I congratulate on this statement by the way, recognise that the Prevent duty, which I introduced as Security Minister, has led to an unfortunate outcome? That is that the Islamist threat she described has been defined and interpreted too narrowly, whereas some of the other threats, which are less significant, as she said, in scale and character, have none the less been defined too widely. The truth of the matter is that Prevent is now out of kilter both with the subjects of interest to the police and the intelligence services and with the active inquiries of those services, and it has to be brought back into line to play its proper part in the Contest strategy.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My right hon. Friend deserves huge credit for the work he led when he was Security Minister introducing, as he said, the Prevent duty, which obliges relevant authorities to take action when they identify evidence of radicalisation within the public realm. He is absolutely right: 80% of the counter-terrorism police network’s live investigations are Islamist. MI5 is clear that Islamist terrorism remains our predominant security threat, accounting for 75% of its case load. Yet, judging by the referrals made by Prevent, that is entirely inconsistent with the work being done on the ground. That is why I am committed to ensuring there is a security threat check, so that the work carried out on the ground and within communities is consistent with the actual and real security threat that we face.

Photo of Khalid Mahmood Khalid Mahmood Labour, Birmingham, Perry Barr

The Secretary of State says that the issue is about working with a smaller organisation, but that has not been a problem for a long time. As I have said for ever and a day, until we get this issue out into the mainstream community and get the main Muslim community on board, Prevent will have detractors, as it continually does. Will she listen to the shadow Secretary of State when she says that the terrorism strategy has to be updated and that the previous commissioner’s report still has not been implemented? All those issues need to be put together, not just the Prevent review, to ensure that the area works holistically. Finally, saying words about the Labour party in the way that the Home Secretary does, does not help any of us to move forward, which I think is a little unwise.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The reality is that yes, we are going for a refresh of our Contest counter-terrorism strategy. This is a vital element of that, and we will be setting out broader plans and strategy in the future. The hon. Gentleman points to an important issue, and we need to work with communities, community leaders, and those in the Muslim community who support this work and recognise the benefit of preventing radicalisation and terrorism. The caricature of Prevent as an authoritarian and thinly veiled means of persecuting British Muslims is not only untrue, but a grotesque insult to all those who work in the Prevent network and within communities, doing such diligent work to stop terrorism. We as a community need to be much more muscular in defending them.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

I welcome this review and the call, as I see it, for a rebalancing of institutional effort and emphasis over the whole Prevent programme. On the issue of extreme right-wing threats and terrorism, while the numbers are small, does the Home Secretary share my concern about the number of teenagers and the age profile, particularly young men who are being radicalised online and are attracted to extreme right-wing ideology, with potentially some of those—small numbers—leading to terrorist activity? What more can we do as a Government to prevent that online?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My right hon. Friend is right to talk about the threat from extreme right-wing ideology, which is growing fast and quickly within the Prevent caseload. We must not ignore it; we must take steps to intervene and prevent that from spreading into violent behaviour. Indeed, we have seen successful prosecutions of individuals who have espoused those disgraceful views. Mechanisms will be in place, and the Online Safety Bill will be a vital tool in the fight against extremism. I look forward to that being delivered and helping us with that objective.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement, but I fear that in her attempt to construct a hierarchy of terrorism threats, she will play into the hands of those in the Islamic community who want to damage Prevent. She said in her statement that Prevent defined the extreme right wing too broadly, encompassing the respectable right wing and the right of centre, but last year’s report by the Intelligence and Security Committee, if she cares to read it, states that that is just not the case. She also has to look at the numbers. As Mark Pritchard said, there is a growing threat online of young people—white men—who Prevent would help by stopping them being radicalised. She said that she has listened to the British public, but may I suggest that she listens to the security services, counter-terrorism police and MI5, which certainly do not want a situation in which Prevent is used as a political football, as she is trying to do, between two threats, both of which are extremely dangerous to our society?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, will be aware, as I am, that the security threat assessment cannot be ignored. When we hear from agencies that are on the frontline, combating activities across the country, and looking at their caseload and at the numbers of subjects of interest they monitor, it is undeniable that by far the greatest security threat that this country faces is that posed by Islamist extremism. That is not reflected by our on-the-ground Prevent programme. That means it is not working. As William Shawcross sets out extensively, that is because of a misapplication of thresholds and assessments of the nature and scale of the different threats. It is a bogus equivalence to equate the threat of extreme right-wing terrorism and the threat of Islamist extremism, and that is what we all need to be honest about.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Conservative, Southend West

I warmly welcome this statement, and the tributes and sad reminders from both sides of the House that my brilliant predecessor, Sir David Amess, was brutally murdered by an evil man pursuing an Islamic terrorist agenda. Given that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has just confirmed that the greatest security threat still facing the UK is that of Islamic terrorism, according to the security threat assessment, will she commit to ensuring that the Prevent programme is overwhelmingly focused on tackling the threat posed by terrorist ideology, so that no other constituency has to endure what mine endured in 2021?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend reminds us powerfully and poignantly of the tragic implications when we cannot prevent, and our authorities fail to prevent, terrorism. The House was united in its grief in the aftermath of the horrific murder of our dear friend and colleague, Sir David Amess MP.

It is absolutely vital, not just for the victims of terrorism but for all the families who have been bereaved and all those who have been directly affected by the grotesquely evil acts of terrorists, that we take robust action, that we are candid about the shortfalls and shortcomings of the Prevent programme, and that we act rapidly to remedy them, so that we present a meaningful and robust approach to preventing terrorism and extremism in Britain.

Photo of Munira Wilson Munira Wilson Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education)

I would like to think that everybody, on both sides of the House, is united in wanting to tackle extremism and terrorism, whichever faith groups, or those of no faith at all, are targeted, so I deeply regret the tone of some of the Home Secretary’s remarks today.

I welcome the fact that the review of the Prevent strategy has finally been published; in the past, the strategy has been undermined by suspicion and tension. Does the Home Secretary agree that in order to combat violent extremism, we must engage with marginalised communities, and that by demonising one community in particular, which her language has sought to do today, we are doing precisely the opposite?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

We all need to be intellectually honest about the situation and we must not shy away from speaking the truth, however uncomfortable that may be. I have not sought, and nor do I ever seek, to demonise any particular community in this country. It is frankly disgusting to see politicians here repeating the smears that have been thrown at the Prevent programme for far too long. Too many groups have been attacking Prevent for far too long, in a campaign to undermine its objectives, smearing it as unfairly targeting Muslims, and suggesting that it is spying on Muslims. All of that is totally untrue. As leading politicians, we should collectively combat that misinformation so that we are all keeping the British people safe.

Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Conservative, Blackpool South

It is evident from the Home Secretary’s robust statement that Prevent has been dragged badly off course as a consequence of political correctness and misplaced cultural sensitivities. Our response to the threat from terrorism must be based on the level of risk. Islamist terrorism remains the greatest security risk to the UK, yet last year only 16% of referrals were associated with that ideology. Does she agree with me that that fact demonstrates how badly Prevent has failed the communities of this country and how much it needs urgent reform?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is not just about focusing on the sharp end of violent activity; this is about ensuring there is wider understanding of non-violent extremism within the wider Islamist movement that promotes grievance narratives and propagates a wider ideological movement that is undermining of western values and liberal democracies. We must not shy away from taking action against those groups. They may fall just below the threshold of terrorism, but they none the less foster ideologies and narratives that may lead to very deadly and destructive behaviour. We must take a strong response to that.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Independent, Islington North

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and for referring to the horrific incident that happened in Finsbury Park in 2017, when a far-right extremist, Darren Osborne, killed Makram Ali, a local Muslim person. Would she acknowledge that within our community in Finsbury Park, the Jewish community, the Muslim community, the Christian community, imams and many other religious leaders have done a great deal to try to bring the community together and promote community understanding and cohesion, and that it is important we bring people together and do not demonise any particular community or allow racism in any form to thrive in our society?

Has the Home Secretary had the opportunity to look at the response by Zara Mohammed from the Muslim Council of Britain to the trailing of this statement? Will she arrange to have a discussion with the MCB on its concerns that the statement will, in fact, not deal with the issue of far-right extremism, as my right hon. Friend Mr Jones pointed out, but will actually continue the demonisation of one community over another? I am sure that is not what she wants to achieve, but it is important to bring all communities together.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

It is absolutely important to bring all communities together. I have to say that advice from the right hon. Gentleman is pretty tin-eared, given his particular oversight and leadership of the Labour party, which was found by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to have serious failings relating to antisemitism. I also say that the Labour party recently gave an award, via Labour-controlled Lewisham Council, to the Lewisham Islamic Centre, whose head imam, the notorious Shakeel Begg, was found by the court to have espoused extremist Islamic positions and promoted or encouraged religious violence. So I very gently say, please hold the mirror up to one’s own party before lecturing the Government on how to deal with this problem.

Photo of Jack Brereton Jack Brereton Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent South

Stoke-on-Trent has suffered from both far-right extremism and Islamic extremism, yet the Home Office is proposing to remove our Prevent funding and remove what small amount of funding Stoke-on-Trent City Council receives, which has a massive impact. Will the Home Office please look urgently to review that and consider restoring that funding from the end of the financial year?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

For Prevent to operate effectively within local communities, funding is essential. This is why it is absolutely essential that the Home Office works in conjunction with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, so that the right resources are put on the frontline and the multi-agency partnership approach can be effective.

Photo of Zarah Sultana Zarah Sultana Labour, Coventry South

When the Government appointed William Shawcross to lead the review of Prevent, more than 450 Muslim organisations and leading human rights organisations such as Amnesty International boycotted it. Shawcross’s anti-Muslim attitude is well known. He said, for example, that

Europe and Islam is one of the…most terrifying problems of our future.”

[Interruption.] Yes, he said that. Human rights groups said that this attitude meant the review’s supposed objectivity was a farce, warning that it would ignore Prevent’s discriminatory impact and its undermining of democratic freedoms. That warning has been borne out today. Human rights organisation Liberty has previously called Prevent the biggest threat to free speech on campuses and highlighted its anti-Muslim impact. Why does the Home Secretary think that perspective is absent from the review?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I have nothing but gratitude for William Shawcross and the very firm and robust work that he has carried out to assess the operations of Prevent. He has brought with him a wealth of experience from previous roles, and I thank him for delivering such an important and high-quality report.

I say very gently that there is quite a long list of instances in which councillors who have been or are members of the Labour party are supporting or working with extremist Islamist groups. That is a shameful track record on the part of the Labour party that should be sorted out imminently.

Photo of Matt Vickers Matt Vickers Conservative, Stockton South

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Prevent programme will work only if we bring communities along with us, and that the Government must continue to work sensibly with them to tackle radicalisation?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have to work with grassroots organisations and work with members of all communities if we are to get this right. I pay tribute to members of all communities, of all faiths and none, who are working day in, day out to make sure that Prevent works and that the threat from terrorism is reduced.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Justice)

The review appears to be suggesting that there should be less emphasis on far-right terrorism. Given the terrorist attack at a migrant centre by an individual who wanted to “obliterate Muslim children”, and given the statistics that show how there are more referrals to Prevent and more Channel interventions for the far-right than for Islamist cases, is that really the right thing to do?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am going by the data and by the facts. Counter-terrorism police make it clear that Islamist cases make up 80% of their investigations; MI5 says that they account for 75% of its caseloads. Those are the facts, and we cannot look behind those facts, but in the past year the proportion of referrals to Prevent was not consistent with that security threat. Yes, the threat from the extreme right wing is growing and serious and we must never shy away from fighting it, but overwhelmingly the greatest security threat that this country is facing is from Islamist extremists. Prevent must be oriented to meet that threat.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Shadow Minister (Defence)

I pay tribute to Luton in Harmony, which does great work on community cohesion in Luton. Any effective deradicalisation programme has to carry the confidence of local communities. Given the Home Secretary’s statement today, what steps is she taking to ensure that that happens, so I can reassure my Luton South constituents?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

When it comes to the Muslim community, the Government are clear that we will not tolerate any anti-Muslim hatred, in any form, and that we will seek to stamp it out wherever it occurs. We have some of the strongest legislation in the world to tackle hate crime. We have supported organisations such as Tell MAMA with nearly £5 million between 2016 and 2023 to monitor and combat anti-Muslim hatred. That, as well as many other provisions and resources led by this Government, is a reflection of our commitment to protecting those communities who feel vulnerable.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Independent, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Diolch, Madam Deputy Speaker. Welsh universities play a vital role in the Prevent strategy in Wales, and their work is monitored by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. Higher education is devolved, so what discussions will the Home Secretary have with Welsh Ministers about the proposed reforms? What input did Welsh Ministers have into the review?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman mentioned universities. An important feature of William Shawcross’s report is what he says about the extent of anti-Prevent activity on university campuses. Indeed, some of the tragic cases that he describes involve instances in which terrorists who have brought terror and destruction to innocent victims in the UK have been effectively radicalised on campuses. It is vital that we take meaningful steps to ensure that there is no platform for these campaigns within universities, and that misrepresentations of Prevent are deterred.